EAST HARTFORD >> It’s one of those rebuilding years for RHAM baseball.
After graduating a dozen players from last season’s team, almost the entire 2014 lineup will be new to the varsity ranks.
“We have two kids who played last year, all the rest are brand new JV kids who’ve never played varsity before,” said RHAM coach Paul Steiner as he begins his 23rd year at the helm.
The youth showed Thursday as the Sachems played East Hartford in a preseason scrimmage at East Hartford High School. The Hornets put a number of balls in play giving the RHAM fielders their first chances to see live game action this year. The field in Hebron has been unplayable over the last few weeks, giving Steiner limited opportunities to evaluate his team.
“I haven’t seen anybody even take a live ball off a bat before today,” Steiner said. “We hit fungos, but that’s a little different. They know it’s coming. Not an excuse, just the truth.”
Losing all-conference and all-state talent is not an easy thing to replace and Steiner knows it won’t happen right away. He just wants the younger players to ‘learn to set into the program.’
“They’re enthusiastic, hard-working, they want it,” Steiner said. “There will be some growing pains, but I think we’re going to get better.”
There are three players on this year’s team with varsity experience. Senior McLane Hill at first base and juniors Tyler Brett at shortstop and Jeff Hallbach, catcher. Steiner is hoping each and every one of his players steps up this year and comes ready to play.
“We’re going to go in there and battle, we’re going to give everything we can,” he said. “Everybody has to do the little things and we can’t beat ourselves up. If the other team beats us, so be it. If we beat ourselves, that’s something we need to work on.”
The Sachems have qualified for the state tournament every year Steiner has coached except 2007 and their lone Class L title came in 2004. They are not setting the expectations too high with this inexperienced team, they just want to get better.
“We’ll surprise some people,” said Steiner of his team’s chances in the state tournament. “We were disappointing ourselves, but I think we’ll be able to surprise some people.”
As long as the weather doesn’t get in the way, RHAM will have one more scrimmage scheduled for Saturday against Lyman Memorial before they open up against defending CCC South champion Bristol Central in Bristol on Wednesday.
“I like this group, I think they can do a lot of good things,” Steiner said.